Despite Wrightsville Beach’s ‘expectation’ for lower rate, CFPUA recommends denying request
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - The Town of Wrightsville Beach needs to act fast if it wants to have enough water to provide for the inevitable influx of visitors making their way to the small oceanside community.
The town has struggled with water quality for years, and in 2019, struck a deal with CFPUA to provide bulk water at a significantly discounted rate of $0.84 per 1,000 gallons. The typical price is $3.48 per 1,000 gallons.
The discount was due to CFPUA’s possible role in contaminating the town’s water supply with GenX due to possible cross contamination of CFPUA water, which is stored near a well of the town’s.
The agreement is coming to an end in April, and town leaders now have to make a decision if they want to ensure their water supply, but elected leaders are balking at the standard rate and asking the CFPUA Board to consider approving the purchase of water for the significantly discounted rate — just $0.65 cents per 1,000 gallons.
However, CFPUA staff recommends not approving any additional discounts for the town.
The need for outside water comes from contamination in the town’s wells by chloride, which is not due to any fault of CFPUA, the water provider told WECT.
“In recognition of this reality, and to address on-going chloride contamination issues in Town wells, the Town has formally requested to purchase 150 million gallons per year, utilizing no more than 800 gallons per minute, for a contract period of only two years.” Executive Director of CFPUA Kenneth Waldroup said in a memo. “The Town has also requested an extension of the Short-Term Mutual Aid Rate of $0.65/1000 gallons for the first 45 million gallons with the remainder (105 million gallons) at the prevailing Bulk Water Resale Rate, which is currently $3.48/1,000 gallons.”
As it turns out, the Town of Wrightsville Beach consumed more water than what the original agreement allowed, and, since it was not in the contract, there was no overage penalty. CFPUA staff is suggesting if the water provider does enter into another agreement with the town, it’s on their terms.
“The draft contract also includes a rate multiplier for exceedances of contract terms (150 million gallons of water per calendar year or 800 gallons per minute). If the Town exceeds either 800 gallons per minute or 150 million gallons per year, a rate multiplier of 1.5 times will be utilized for the billing period in which the contract violation occurs,” Waldroup said.
The Town also was hoping to get CFPUA to agree to a two-year contract, however, that too has been recommended against.
“CFPUA staff do not recommend offering a contract term of less than 5 years, as described in the 2019 contract. Deviating from the definition of long-terms sales, as previously agreed upon and adopted in the 2019 contract, would not be beneficial to CFPUA or the Town and may create unnecessary workload for contract extensions if a utility consolidation cannot be accomplished,” he said.
It’s something that will likely cause some heartburn for Wrightsville Beach’s Board of Aldermen. During a meeting earlier this year, Alderman Zeke Partin told Town Manager Tim Owens instead of asking for a better rate, to make the wording more demanding.
“I would use the word expect, don’t ask; please say, ‘we expect this,’” she said.
Despite that expectation, CFPUA staff appears to stand by the regular rate.
The water provider’s board will meet on Wednesday at 9 a.m. to discuss a variety of agenda items, including a new contract with Wrightsville Beach.
How we got here
The town agreed to three different criteria when they signed the agreement including:
- Consolidate its system into CFPUA’s within six months of the end of the term. Essentially, all Wrightsville Beach customers would become regular CFPUA customers; OR
- Agree to become a regular bulk water customer of CFPUA for at least five years. The current regular bulk rate is $3.48 per 1,000 gallons; OR
- Reimburse CFPUA for the difference between the regular bulk rate and the Short-Term Mutual Aid Rate (the difference is $2.83 per 1,000 gallons based on the current bulk rate) for all water obtained under the Short-Term Mutual Aid Bulk Water rate.
In terms of the agreement to consolidate with CFPUA, Waldroup said it’s not something that has come to fruition at this point.
“Unfortunately, the Town and the Authority have not been able to come to agreement regarding terms associated with a utility consolidation. That is not to say that a utility consolidation cannot or should not occur, but the work necessary to establish the details of a consolidation will be significant,” Waldroup said.
Members of CFPUA’s Board did not respond to requests for comment on the matter, neither did Town Aldermen or the Town Manager.
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